* Served as a field attorney for the National Labor Relations Board in Boston, 1999-2002
* Was Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, 2007-2011
* Was elected Suffolk County (Massachusetts) District Attorney in 2018
* Was appointed by President Biden as U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts in 2021
Rachael Splaine Rollins was born on March 3, 1971 in Boston, Massachusetts. Her father was a white, second-generation Irish-American who spent 40 years working as a public-school teacher in Boston. Her mother was black, the daughter of immigrants from Barbados, who served 20 years as a nurse in Boston schools.
Raised in Cambridge with her four younger siblings, Rachael Rollins attended the local Buckingham Browne & Nichols School, one of the most elite private schools in the nation. She earned an athletic scholarship to play lacrosse at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education and African-American Studies in 1994. Rollins also obtained a J.D. degree from the Northeastern University School of Law in 1997, and a Master of Laws in Labor and Employment Law from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1999.
In 1991, Rollins was charged with the misdemeanor crime of receiving stolen goods. She pleaded not guilty and paid court costs of $200. Five months later, the case was continued without a finding before it was eventually dismissed.
While attending law school, Rollins worked as a legal intern for both the NBA Players Association and U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Keeton. From 1997-1998, she served as a clerk for Judge Frederick Brown of the Massachusetts Appeals Court.
From 1999-2002, Rollins was a field attorney for the National Labor Relations Board in Boston, where, on behalf of union members, she prosecuted violations of the National Labor Relations Act and served as a collective bargaining representative.
From 2002-2006, Rollins was in private practice as an attorney for the global law firm of Bingham McCutchen LLC. Her work there focused variously on civil litigation, labor and employment, First Amendment issues, and criminal defense.
From 2007-2011, Rollins was an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, where she worked on both criminal and civil cases. She subsequently served as General Counsel to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation from 2011-2013, and to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority during 2012-2013. Rollins then held the post of Chief Legal Counsel to the Massachusetts Port Authority from 2013-2015.
From 2016-2018, Rollins worked as a Project Manager Consultant for public-private partnerships in the Massachusetts area.
In 2018, Rollins, a Democrat, was elected as District Attorney of Suffolk County, Massachusetts after campaigning on a platform that openly pledged to decriminalize 15 separate categories of offenses, including:
Rollins’ official campaign website stated that instead of prosecuting these crimes, they would be “outright dismissed” or “diverted and treated as a civil infraction.” Her campaign was supported by the leftist billionaire George Soros.
In a September 2018 appearance on Fox News, Rollins articulated her belief that “we have too many people in jail who are not violent. And we can disagree [about] what violence is, and I respect that and understand it. But I believe that we are spending too much time on petty crimes that are clogging up our system and costing us more money…. They’re more social problems than they are crimes.”
The motivations inevitably created by Rollins’ soft-on-crime policies were vividly on display in a May 2019 case in which a 59-year-old career criminal was dismayed when he was arrested for shoplifting, having mistakenly believed that the store he had just robbed was located within Suffolk County, and that he therefore would not be punished for committing the crime.
Rollins crime-related policies grow directly out of her profound distaste for racial disparities in the respective arrest and incarceration rates of blacks and whites. As a December 2021 report in The Daily Mail puts it: “Rollins is part of a movement of ‘progressive prosecutors’ who seek to eliminate racial disparities in the justice system and reject a traditional ‘tough on crime’ culture that they say has led to the disproportionate incarceration of black men.”
In April 2019, Rollins criticized Massachusetts’ Republican Governor Charlie Baker’s administration for having an insufficient number of nonwhite minority members. Following the Baker administration’s criticism of her lax prosecution policies, Rollins declared: “The people that think they understand our community but don’t have a single black secretary in their cabinet — you’re not going to have a job pretty soon.”
After Massachusetts Public Safety Secretary Thomas Turco issued a memo warning of the dangers inherent in Rollins’ newly implemented crime policies, a number of her supporters came to her defense at a rally in early April 2019. “We stand with our duly-elected district attorney Rachael Rollins…. We’re here to send a strong message to anyone who would come against her: She is our district attorney. Hands off our D.A.,” said Randy Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam’s Mosque No. 11 in Boston. Rollins was also defended by such notables as Representative Ayanna Pressley and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors.
Under Rollins’ watch in 2020, Boston experienced a 62% rise in commercial burglaries and a 54% increase in murders, which included a 60% spike in fatal shootings.
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s infamous death at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer in May 2020, Rollins, citing the names of several blacks who had been killed or harassed by whites in recent years, tweeted: “Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Tony McDade. Christian Cooper. While we [blacks] are being murdered at will by the police & their proxy, privileged [white] racists like Amy Cooper play the victim. No more apologies. No more words. Demand action. Radical change now. Nothing less.”
On another occasion in early June 2020, Rollins told news reporters: “As your elected district attorney, we have looked around this country and seen police officers — people that Black lives pay taxes to fund these positions — shoot us in the street as if we were animals.” Added Rollins: “People are disgusted and outraged, and they should be. And it is completely ironic to have to say to you [blacks], ‘Please don’t be violent. Please keep your voice down. Please be silent and comply with all of the police’s requirements,’ when in fact it’s those very people that murder us with impunity. But that’s where we are right now.”
The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association condemned Rollins’ remarks for having “undoubtedly incited violence against the proud men and women of the Boston Police Department.” “Instead of slandering our officers as murderers, you should be highlighting their professionalism and dedication to our city,” the union’s leaders said. In reply, Rollins stated that the Boston police were simply demonstrating that “white fragility is real.”
As Black Lives Matter and other leftist organizations wreaked havoc on American cities and communities in hundreds of violent riots throughout 2020, Rollins asserted: “This burning rage that you are seeing when you turn your TV on or you hear in my voice is real. People are fed up, and to the white community that is now waking up to see this rage, we have been telling you this forever.” Minimizing the seriousness of those riots and the property damage they had caused, Rollins quipped that “buildings can be fixed,” whereas blacks who had been “lynched and murdered” by police would be gone forever.
In February 2020, Rollins participated in a panel discussion alongside fellow leftist District Attorneys Marilyn Mosby of Baltimore and Chesa Boudin of San Francisco. Another participant was then-U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, McGregor Scott, a self-described “progressive” prosecutor who criticized Rollins’ policies for: (a) undermining the role and province of the legislative branch of government, and (b) leading consistently to higher violent-crime rates. In response, Rollins stated: “I will say, as one of less than 1 percent of actual people with melanin that are in this role … I really don’t have much time for more white men telling me what communities of color need.”
In April 2020, when the deadly COVID-19 pandemic caused by the highly contagious coronavirus was shifting into high gear, Rollins wrote a letter to Governor Baker requesting that he allow more incarcerated criminals to be set free in order to reduce prison crowding and thereby minimize the potential spread of the pandemic behind prison walls. Citing guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention as well as a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court order, Rollins argued that the 637 Massachusetts inmates who had already been released for this purpose was a “woefully inadequate” number.
On August 25, 2020, Rollins co-authored a Politico piece entitled “Prosecutors Are Not Exempt from Criticism,” along with fellow leftist prosecutors Satana Deberry, Kim Gardner, Kim Foxx, and Diana Becton. Characterizing the American justice system as an institution rife with racism, the article started with the following words: “Our criminal legal system was constructed to control Black people and people of color. Its injustices are not new but are deeply rooted in our country’s shameful history of slavery and legacy of racial violence. The system is acting exactly as it was intended to, and that is the problem.”
Articulating a shared desire to “transform the broader criminal legal system,” Rollins and her Politico co-authors urged fellow prosecutors to adhere to the following “commitments”:
While attempting to exit a Boston mall parking lot with her car in December 2020, Rollins became involved in a heated altercation with a white driver named Katie Lawson, who happened to be a registered Democrat. Thinking that Lawson had attempted to cut her off with her vehicle, Rollins, pretending to be a police officer, turned on the strobes and sirens with which her car was illegally equipped, and she threatened to write Lawson a ticket. After the altercation ended, Lawson, thinking that Rollins was in fact a policewoman, wrote down the license plate number of of Rollins’ car and subsequently called the Boston Police Department to complain about the rude treatment she had received. When it was learned that Rollins was not in fact a police officer, local news reporters went to her house in hopes of questioning her about the incident. Rollins demanded to know how the news team had found her home, and they told her that the address was a matter of public record. “That’s unbelievable,” Rollins replied. “So as a Black woman, in this moment in this country, you’re going to put my f**king house on screen?” Added Rollins: “I’ll call the police on you and make an allegation…. So the rantings of a white woman get you here and scare my children?” Rollins also warned one journalist: “Get off our private property. And I swear to God, I’m dead serious. I will find your name.” In addition, Rollins said: “Get away from my family. Speak to me at my job. If I get hurt or harmed because of this, you are on the record for that, or my kids are f**king killed…. Who do you think you are? This is private property. Get out of here…. You know what I’ll do? I’ll call the police on you and make an allegation, and we’ll see how that works for you.”
In February 2021, Rollins defended the Black Lives Matter movement in a tweet that said: “Not only do Black lives matter, but Black lives make our society significantly better every single day. A beautiful resistance is the simple belief and knowledge that we as Black people are always more than enough.”
On July 26, 2021, the White House announced that President Joe Biden was nominating Rollins to serve as a U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. The Senate vote was held on December 8 and was split evenly, 50-50, along party lines, leaving Democrat Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the deciding vote that secured Rollins’ confirmation as a federal prosecutor.
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